Lil Skies Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

Pennsylvania rapper Lil Skies likes to talk about his face tattoos, specifically about how his decision to permanently install a small gallery’s worth of art all over his head (and neck) provided him the fuel required to focus on a career in music—he’s well aware that no conventional workplace would hire a guy who looks like a walking Sailor Jerry billboard. Regardless of whether or not his explanation is earnest, Skies has found some musical success in music at the moment, which shows on his Atlantic debut, January’s Life of a Dark Rose. Of all the personalities who have emerged from the ambiguous underground aesthetic known as Soundcloud rap (for lack of a better term), Skies is the most approachable—in no small part because he’s got the most endearing voice this side of Ohio rapper Trippie Redd. But while Trippie leans hard into his screamo and metal influences, which dovetail nicely with the brash elements of Soundcloud rap, Skies’s vocals are sweet, clean, and frictionless. And so Life of a Dark Rose is the least immediately offensive Soundcloud rap album, which also makes it the Muzak of Soundcloud rap: songs that can fit on any rap playlist, have a generally pleasant sound, and at worst just seep into the background. The qualities of Skies’s music are a boon in this age of corporate streaming—his whole “mixtape” could litter big-time playlists without ruffling too many feathers—and indeed, Life of a Dark Rose quickly ascended to the top ten on the Billboard 200. That tracks such as the woesome, austere “Red Roses” come equipped with strong hooks is just an added bonus.   v